Posted: October 17th, 2013
The Life of Pi Analysis
The Life of Pi film is directed by Ang Lee and based on the book written by Yann Martel with its genre as fiction. The story features a main character, Pi who undergoes extreme life situations of life and death, which pose a great test to his faith. Pi is a young man with religious diversity since he believes in 3 different religions that guide his morality and the treatment of other people and animals. The film features animals that have human characteristics as an emphasis of diversity of human personalities. In the process of migrating from the United States, a tragedy strikes but he is lucky to survive. In the verge of despair, an island appears which signifies renewed hope for pi and his best friend. He tells the Japanese investigators a different account of events from what really happened which shows the two sides to Pi’s life, the positive and negative dimensions.
The main theme featured in the film is the will to live, which clearly shows in Pi’s life. The various challenges encountered by living creatures in their goal of survival are highlighted showing that each individual makes sacrifices hoping to survive. Pi encounters many obstacles in his adventure that he survives due to his strong will to live. The shipwreck does not stop them from fighting for their lives. Pi abandons his vegetarian life by adapting to a new kind of diet that involves eating fish for survival. The zebra fights for its life to its last breath. When faced with life threatening situations, living creatures are bound to fight for their lives in any possible way.
However, in the course of fighting for their survival, humans and animals could break the rules of morality. Lee demonstrates this when he highlights the hyena’s treachery that helped him survive. The Frenchman’s turn to cannibalism was necessary for his survival. The film highlights the immoral things that living creatures are forced to do in order to survive. This aspect is applied in the theory of survival for the fittest. Even pi is not spared from the pressure of making some drastic actions some of which he considered immoral. Given that he is a religious person, his principles should guide him in his actions but he defies them at some point. The film does not justify the barbaric actions done in order for the characters to survive the life-threatening situations but instead focuses on pointing out their necessity. Without carrying out the various actions, the characters would perish and that was their motivation.
Lee uses the theme of the nature of religions through Pi who believes in three different religions. The religions guide him on the path of morality, which makes him realize that he had committed some immoral actions in his quest for survival. The religions make him appreciate the various experiences that he undergoes in his life. However, his beliefs in the various religions do not blind him from accepting the diversity of beliefs. He admires atheist who believe in the absence of God. To him, the most important thing is the belief in something, not necessarily believing in God. Lee portrays Pi as a character who appreciates the diversity in humankind. He acknowledges that there are people with different beliefs from his but respects their opinions though differing from his.
Lee also brings out the theme of storytelling. The life of pi is a story within a story in which he successfully narrates the accounts of Pi’s experiences. Two versions of the story are told with the purpose of revealing two different and distinct sides to the same story. In one account, the account includes animals while the other replaces the animals with human characters. This brings out a comparison of the humans to the animals used. Pi enjoys the use of storytelling and its beauty in narrating the same story while portraying different meanings.
Pi uses storytelling as a means for survival. Revealing to the Japanese investigators the true accounts of his adventures would raise suspicions and the accounts would sound unbelievable. The account narrated to the investigators may sound untrue but to pi, they held a substantial amount of truth. Pi was trying to forget the actual happenings in his adventure by replacing the human characters with animals. This is to hide the human cruelty. At his age, he had undergone horrifying encounters and that had forced him do cruel things. He invents the character of Richard parker who signifies the cruel nature of pi that had enabled him survive the ordeal. The animals and humans are used in contrast regardless of sharing some similarities in their personalities. They appear as both enemies and friends, good and bad. Martel gives the audience a choice of believing in the story or disagreeing with it just like the different sides of religion, to believe or not to believe.
The theme of freedom comes up in the narration. Pi feels very free in the sea since he is not under any rules or under the supervision of anyone. However, his idea of freedom seems misguided since he experiences the need to put his survival above anything else. This leads to the need to eat meat and drop his vegetarian lifestyle. Though he enjoys the freedom in the sea, the freedom is relative since the rules of nature still apply to him regardless of the situation. Pi holds the idea that zoos offer freedom to the animals contrary to what other people think that they take away their freedom through confining them. The animals in the wild could be considered free but the need for survival interferes with their freedom since they have to hunt for food. However, in the zoo, the animals are provided with their requirements for survival and therefore do not have to hunt or undergo other strenuous activities in order to survive. Freedom therefore varies with the context and sometimes-living creatures never acquire maximum freedom.
The relativity of truth is another theme used in this story. Each story narrated by pi holds a substantial amount of truth depending on the context. Some aspects appear untrue initially but the explanation provided in the end changes one’s perspective by enlightening one on the various dimensions of a particular narration. This opens up one’s mind for deeper analysis of the situations highlighted in the story. Just like a coin has two sides, a story has a deeper and a shallow meaning. If only considering the shallow meaning of a story, it is possible to make misjudgments. The deeper meaning of a story reveals a different dimension to a story that shows the narrator’s real message. Considering both sides of a coin is therefore important in understanding the coin. This reveals the relative nature of truth since a situation can undergo manipulation to suit the intended interpretation.
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